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‘By 2020, the Middle East will be the second largest energy consumption market, globally’

Ryan O’Donnell, Programme Director, Global Smart Energy Summit (GSES), speaks about the region’s proactive move towards renewable energy, its implications for the UAE and how the summit contributes to the dialogue of emerging issues, following the region’s move to advocate a more diverse energy mix. Excerpts from the interview with Hannah Jo Uy…

| | Feb 27, 2018 | 11:16 am
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Could you comment on the uptake of renewable energy in the Middle East region and its impact in view of the growing year-on-year demand for power, as a result of an increase in population?

In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards the use of renewable energy. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park is regionally pioneering the transition away from traditional energy sources.

According to the 2017 World Energy Outlook report, commissioned by the International Energy Agency, by 2020, the Middle East will be the second-largest energy consumption market, globally. As a result, governments across the region have taken major steps towards pursuing clean-energy strategies, with the goal to get on track for sustainable growth. This trend will only grow with time, as more countries adopt renewable-energy strategies.

With the surge in demand for energy and commitment to smart solutions, the first Global Smart Energy Summit (GSES), scheduled to take place alongside Middle East Electricity (MEE) from March 6-8 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, is expected to bring together world-renowned experts, policymakers and global and regional industry leaders to discuss, network and debate the ongoing transition to smart energy.

There is a proactive move in countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia to develop a more diverse energy mix. This is evident in government investment towards solar, nuclear and geothermal projects. How has the situation influenced you in establishing the topics of discussion at GSES?

The world is witnessing an ever-increasing demand for energy, sparked by rising populations, industrialisation and urbanisation. To meet the demand, governments are recognising the need to embrace and explore renewable- and smart-energy solutions. However, with it comes the challenge of financing projects and securing interest and investment from private-sector entities.

The GCC Power Report, created by Ventures Onsite for MEE, states that this region alone will require USD 131 billion worth of investment in electricity generation, transmission and distribution over the next five years, to cope with the increasing demand. Such is the need for change that the inaugural GSES will have a dedicated track for reforms, policy and incentives, where regional and international industry leaders will look for tomorrow’s financing and partnership solutions. There will also be key debate on the energy models needed to fuel economic growth and the reforms needed to accelerate the shift to smart-energy solutions. This track could set the future course of the region’s energy industry.

The adoption of renewable energy brings the obvious question of energy storage, and that will be under the spotlight in the afternoon session on Day One and, again, on Day Three of the summit.

Do you believe emerging technologies could help in air conditioning applications in the region, which is traditionally responsible for 70% of the energy consumption, owing to the region’s high-ambient conditions? What kind of a role do you think it will play in relation to the UAE’s move towards nearly zero-energy buildings?

The UAE, specifically Dubai, is a fitting host for the inaugural GSES because of the efforts being made to embrace new technology and renewable energy and to put the country and region on the path to sustainable development. Dubai has already made great strides to tackle energy consumption with the implementation of the Green Building Regulations, which challenge the construction industry to build an environment that is resource-efficient in terms of energy, water and materials, whilst reducing building-related impacts on human health and the environment, throughout the building’s lifecycle.

We are witnessing the emergence and adoption of new technologies that can help air conditioning applications, such as tri-generation and chilled-water storage, which can assist better harvesting, storage and distribution of solar-power generation. Artificial Intelligence and the adoption of development of the Smart Home concept, which allows users to manage their home air-conditioning, heating and lighting systems via remote control, will continue to witness increased growth, which will undoubtedly help reduce consumption.

During GSES, one of the keynote addresses is titled ‘8 Technology Breakthroughs that will Power the World’, which will shed light on the future of efficient energy consumption, and there will also be a panel discussion, titled ‘District Energy in Cities Initiative: Supporting National and Municipal Governments to Develop, Retrofit and Scale Up District Energy Systems’, which will provide industry decision-makers from around the region with great insight on efficient energy systems in buildings.

Broadly speaking, would you say that the region is growing to be an attractive market for renewable energy?

The Middle East energy market is one of the world’s most vibrant, with myriad of opportunities for anyone connected with the industry, as countries across the region further develop their infrastructure and diversify their economies and power needs, away from a reliance on fossil fuels. Renewable energy projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will need more than USD 200 billion worth of investment in the coming years, according to research by business intelligence service, MEED.

Do you see a move towards cogeneration in the Middle East?

Increasing populations, the ongoing issue of climate change and growing environment concerns have led to a rise in demand for power that not only meets demand but is also clean and environmentally friendly. When taking account of all these factors, cogeneration will be one of the ways to move forward, which will not only reduce CO2 emissions and carbon footprint but is also more efficient, as it effectively uses waste heat while generating power.

Additionally, cogeneration systems reduce energy costs by using Natural Gas to work with existing conventional systems. Cogeneration will also help the Middle Eastern countries maintain oil exports in 2018, despite an anticipated extension of OPEC cuts, according to BMI Research. Globally, cogeneration is being widely implemented for meeting heat and electricity needs, and we will definitely see the region adopt it, as well.

It is believed that if tri-generation is synchronised with renewable energy, we can save 75%-80% of Natural Gas used for air conditioning purposes. Would this be an approach that you think the UAE and other countries should consider?

As a regional leader in renewables and sustainability practices, the UAE has shown steadfast commitment to reducing energy consumption and preserving precious resources. The UAE and the wider GCC region are constantly exploring new technologies and smart solutions to drive sustainable development. GSES will provide a platform for top-level policy-making, agenda-setting discussion, debate and knowledge-sharing on the best way forward, for the transition to smart energy and sustainable solutions.

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